Fishing is such a great way to spend time on the water. You get to know your family friends a lot better and every trip seems to create more memories that you can share with each other as the years go by.
That is one of the ways that fishing can be rewarding. I found out there is yet another way that putting a line in the water can actually give you cash back.
Wayne Knudson, from Seeley Lake, and I were fishing recently on Canyon Ferry Lake. It was in the middle of the week and the fishing wasn’t bad, but we both have experienced better.
It was planned as two day fishing trip with Knudson having to take off and head back to Missoula to license a boat that he recently purchased. In order to get to the county courthouse before it closed, he felt that he would have to be on the road by 1p.m.
The plan was to fish until lunch time and then come in and grab a bite to eat and Knudson would take off and I would go fish solo for a few more hours before heading back to Missoula as well.
Together, we caught just one small walleye in the morning so fishing wasn’t very productive. After grabbing a sandwich for lunch, I headed out to try my luck again.
Now, you see, luck is the operative word here. Within a half an hour of putting my lines, in I had a fish on one of them. And as luck would have it, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks tagged the fish.
It had two tags inserted into its back – one was a blue tag and the other was an orange tag. The blue tag had general information from MFW&P and the orange tag had $75 reward written on along with CF-0184.
It was my lucky day. I caught a $75 fish and to make it even better, I would not have to share the proceeds with my fishing partner.
In today’s fishing world, $75 can go along ways in covering expenses like night crawlers, leeches, fuel for the boat, etc.
When I got back to Missoula,I called Eric Roberts, who is the fish biologist for Canyon Ferry Lake, to find out how to cash in my tag.
“Just put the date you caught the fish, location, size, and if you kept it or released it,” said Roberts, “then mail it to my Helena office at 930 W Custer, 59620”.
While I had Roberts on the phone I thought I would ask a few more questions that would give all of us a better idea of how this $75 reward program came about.
How many fish did you tag and where and when did you tag them? “We tagged 164 walleyes in April and early May near their spawning grounds which on Canyon Ferry is in an area known as Duck Creek,” he said.
The fish I caught was about one mile from Duck Creek. Is that where most of the fish have been caught?
“Yes,” Roberts replied, “Most of the fish that have been turned in have been surprisingly close to the spawning grounds, however we are now starting to receive some fish from as far away as White Earth Campground.”
How many of these tags are you expecting to get back?
“We figured in the early going we would receive 10-20 percent but the return rate so far is pacing at 30 percent,” he said.
How did you come up with the $75 amount for the reward?
“ Most surveys that have been compiled told us that anglers would turn in a tag that was valued at $50 to $125 so we just kind of met in the middle,” Roberts replied.
Why are you tagging the fish?
He answered, “It is a way for us to tell how the harvest is going with walleyes in the lake and it the information we receive will help us better manage the lake.”
I know the walleye fishing has been good how is the trout population in Canyon Ferry?
“It is doing well. In fact, we are now planting 8 inch rainbows that have a better survival rate then the fingerling trout we use to plant,” Roberts said.
Why have they not put a cleaning station on Canyon Ferry at the Silos Campground?
“We have funds set aside to build one we have been waiting on Broadwater County officials to fill out the necessary paperwork,” he concluded.
Just in case you want to know, Roberts told me a little history on the fish that I caught. It was tagged April 17th on the south end of Duck Creek. It was a male that was 19 inches in length and about three years old.
The fish was also part of a great meal that I enjoyed later that day.